I have just seen a Kookaburra hanging upside down by its feet from a dead branch at the top of the gum-tree – flapping its wings and telling the world about the position it was in.
No, I did not nail it up in that position for its annoying monkey-like laugh.
It did it itself, and then with a final ‘ka ka kaaaak!’, dropped off and flew away.
Now to Kookaburras that trick was probably as old as Methuselah, and to old-hand Australians, quite normal. Perhaps it was showing off to other Kookaburras, or training for the next Olympics, or frightening off Wolpetiggers, I know not, and it was only saying in Kookaburra.
But to me, it was brand new, and fascinating.
There are millions of Kookaburras, millions of Australians. Maybe to them it’s an ‘Oh no, not again’ bowl of petunias moment. But to anyone else in the world it was unusual and worth seeing, probably a fair number of times until it becomes old hat.
I’ve got my young French cousin here, and things we find terribly mundane – digging up potatoes, catching fish… are still exciting novelties for him. He can’t wait to do what I consider bordering on chores. Food which is so ordinary we barely think of it, for him is a gastronomic experience of unparalleled intensity.
I found myself wondering if this was not true of books too – and deciding it was.
New and exciting is a question of perspective. And that of course is why even an old story is new and exciting if you haven’t heard it, or even if it takes a story have heard – and twists it so you see it all from a different angle (Loki in PYRAMID SCHEME I hope is an example of that. Actually, looking at things from different angles is sort of what I do. It is the source of many of my stories.)
There are, according to various ‘experts’ (I saw an ‘expert’ offering to teach short-story writing a few days ago… and thought there is living proof of if you are too useless to do, you teach, and make generations of uselessness follow. It’s one reason I am wary of those who teach writing. It’s like teaching you to make millions, if you could, why are you teaching me, and why do you want money from me to do it?) only few basic stories or plots. Now of course I disagree with this, but there is a small measure of truth. But the perspective and giving say a Russian Folk-tale to a Western audience can make it seem wonderfully exciting and new. (most of ‘exciting, new, ground-breaking, fresh etc’ I see publishers and their sycophants claiming now-a-days is as novel, exciting and unique as B.O. and plainly regurgitated group-think pap to me. Maybe I’m just jaded.)
So what have you read lately that was really that – and why, and how?